Coaches around the globe like the term “leading by example.”
Shaun Tilghman is no different.
The Manchester University graduate and current assistant for the Spartans’ football staff takes that idea to the next level. Not only is he out on the field coaching the Black and Gold, the thirty-something also still plays the game he loves on summer and early fall weekends.
It is not just a friendly pick-up game of friends in the area … tossing the old pigskin around. He is a member of the Indiana Blitz of the Battle Grounds Football League, a semi-pro organization consisting of teams from Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio.
“I just love (playing football),” he noted, when asked about continuing to take the field for 12 seasons after concluding his five-year playing career as a Spartan. “One of my teammates (at Manchester University) was also one of my roommates the year after our college playing days came to an end. He told me about a team that was starting up in the area, and we were interested so we went to the try-outs, but I never envisioned I’d still be playing.”
“If my opponents ask me, I don’t feel the hits,” he added with a smile. “However, when I get home from games, there are definitely bumps and bruises – just like there are with other guys.”
Tilghman handles starting wide receiver and safety duties for the Denver, Indiana, based team. He has also utilized his coaching skills from time to time.
“We had a situation last year during the playoff semi-finals, where the head coach had moved out-of-state after taking a new job, and the assistant wasn’t available to be at the game either,” he reminisced. “I was the next in line, due to my experience as both a veteran player and coach. Therefore, in my role as interim head coach, I called the offense, and I helped call the defense, but I also still played both sides of the ball as well. On the offensive side, I just took the quarterback away from the huddle, talked with him about the play call, and we went forward.”
“It doesn’t happen (too often),” he said of the player-coach role.
Tilghman admitted his summer/early fall playing efforts aid his coaching duties.
“The guys at MU know I still play,” he said, “and I think some of them do have a certain added respect or appreciation because of that. Plus, it gives me insights into certain situations that opposing coaches might not have or might overlook.”
“I’m also very grateful that (head coach Nate Jensen) is understanding about this,” he added. “Once the players report for camp though, and MU’s season is underway, my first duty is as a coach, without a doubt.”
There are no signs he is giving up the possibility of playing any time soon, though.
“As you get older, you realize more and more that it’s one of those things you really can’t do forever,” Tilghman said. “I’m just going to keep going with it until I can’t play like I want to anymore. Once it gets beyond that, I will know it is time to stop.”
“Some people would probably say I’m crazy,” he added. “But, I still have that fire, that passion (for the game). And I still have the drive and determination to do what it takes to stay in ‘game shape’, as I know the younger guys in the league won’t let up just because I’m older; in fact, some of them go that much harder just because we line up across from each other.”
Continuing to show a passion for the game of football … something Shaun Tilghman can lead others in … by example.